History of Matcha
Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009
Broadly speaking, all Japanese teas are green – matcha is green tea leaves that have been ground to a fine powder, hence the translation ma (ground) cha (tea). However, since matcha drinkers consume the entire leaf, rather than steeping the tea and throwing out the leaves, they truly secure its energy and health benefits – actually, drinking the entire ground leaf makes it possible for one cup of matcha tea to equal 10 cups of regular green tea!
Historically, matcha tea was first introduced in the Song Dynasty of Southern China – in 1191, matcha was brought to Japan by a Zen Buddhist monk named Eisai. Intriguingly, due to the Mongol invasions of the Song, the powdered style of drinking green tea was lost in China – however, Japan, whose forces were successful at repelling the Mongol invasions of the time, managed to hold onto the matcha tradition. Indeed, matcha tea and its consumption has changed very little since the days of Eisai, which reflects a nearly thousand-year-old tradition that is now making its way into North America.
Although matcha is popular in all of Japan, it is primarily grown in three major areas: Aichi, Kyoto and Shizuoka – however, Aichi is Japan’s principal production region for premium matcha. Interestingly, the city of Nishio in the Aichi region is located far from the major urban centers – many matcha enthusiasts in Japan argue that this allows for the clean air and mountain waters to create the highest quality tea plants.